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— K \ A 

The Quatrains as given in this volume differ slightly 
in order from that adopted by Fitzgerald, but the en- 
tire ioi retained by him are here included. These 
notes are given merely to suggest a few of the most 
obvious meanings, without the intention of limiting the 
imagination of those who will gain more pleasure from 
trusting to their own interpretations. 


The swirl which appears here, and is an ever- 
recurring feature in the work, represents the grad- 
ual concentration of the elements that combine to 
form life; the sudden pause through the reverse 
of the movement ^hich marks the instant of life, 
and then the gradual, ever- widening dispersion 
again of these elements into space. 

ILtntrtg IJaprr. 

The serpent, the vine in frurt, and the clinging 
plant in flower. 


Omar, surrounded by his jovial companions, looks 
down on the ambitious warrior, the miser, the stu- 
dent, the theologian, and delivers his admonition. 

CTttlc |3age. 

i9utolishrr's iHarfc. 

Derji cation. _ 

©mar's (Emblem. 

A bird singing on a skull, while the rose of yester- 
day is floating away on the stream. 

2Tf)C &bjafcmtng. Verses 1-3. 

Eijc (Chougrjtful .Soul to Solitutie retires. Verses 4-6. 

2Tfie Inbttatton. Verses 7-10. 

saJKSA-* *wi g i i i uym 


<Lt]f *ong in ttir lUiiilD-rrnrss. / passes n, 12. 

8Tt>£- JSIoboinjj Bosr. Verses 17-16. 

2Et)c Courts of HamsfinTi. Verses 17, iS. 

2T.f)c Btbrr=lLtp. Verses 19-21. 

2Ti)£ Hong 33fst. Verses 22-24. 

This figure, representing Being, descends to a still 
profounder rest than that of sleep, as shown by 
the poppies falling from her hand. She is throw- 
ing aside the garment of life, and the flame of her 
existence is flickering to its close. 

2Tf)£r>IotjD. Verses 25-2S. 

The saints and sages of old are dimly discerned, 
like dried forms caught in the spiders' webs and 
dust of Time. Their vain theories and prophecies 
are symbolized in the circle of books each over- 
throwing its predecessor, with the grim skull as 
the centre. 

ZMtyntc anu JLJ3Iiitf)rr? Verses 20. 30. 

'• Into this Universe like Water, and out of it as 

2Thr Cup of Despair. Verse 31. 

2Ef)C Fain pursuit. Verses 32, 33. 
' As in the case of the alchemist who endeavors to 
extract the secret of life from the living plant, 
heedless the while of his own life, which is passing 
away like the smoke from Ins furnace. 

Omar's f^orosropr. Verses 34-36- 

Presented symbolically. The vine entwining Ju- 
piter and the Pleiades, the stars under whose 
ascendency we are told Omar was born. 1 With 
1 Hit is remembered that the constellation of the Pleiades 

was also called r.v the ancients " The Cluster of Grapes," it 

mav throw a little tight on the metaphor 


22§r <fc .- 



the poet's tendency of mind, one can easily see 
how he would compare favorably the absolute 
freedom and sincerity of the search for truth with- 
in the Tavern with the stagnation and ultimate 
petrifaction of thought within the Temple. 

Fain Ctursttonincr. Verses 37-39. 

Absorbed in the contemplation of the Universe, 
the soul of the philosopher rises even to 

Cfje Ebrortf of Saturn. 

Grasping many truths by the way, but ever baffled 
by the master problem of human fate. 

STfjc Soul of trjr (Cup. Verses 40-42. 

Murmurs lip to lip and gazes into Omar's eyes. 

&1)C %\C3.btn\v potter. Verses 43-45. 

As Omar, in imagination, saw the potter forming 
the cup out of clay that once lived, so the artist 
sees in the potter an angelic workman remoulding 
the clay into some form which may hold a far 
better wine than that of the cup from which the 
poet drank. 

Che Cup of ILoue. Verses 46-48. 

Che Cup of Qcath. Verse 49. 

Che Sutrioe. Verses 50, $i. 

In the cripple is typified the vast majority of man- 
kind who prefer (perhaps wisely) to remain in 
this " clay carcase ; ' with which they are familiar 
and more or less satisfied, rather than to trust to 
the attenuated joys of unlimited space, whither 
the disembodied spirit passes. 

Brath's Bcbtcfo. Verses 52-54. 

The indignation on the frees of the great army of 
humanity is for the ignorance in which they re- 


main, during this brief span of conscious existence, 
of all that lies before and after. 

Ei)i Inrfaitahle jFatr. Verses 55-58. 

This figure of an all-devouring sphinx stretched 
over the remains of Creation typifies the destruc- 
tive side of Nature, which " Taking all shapes 
from Mah to Mahi, they change and perish all.' 1 

STfie Bittrr Cup. 

A pause to mark the change of tone in the poem. 

2Trjc Batightrr of ttje Fine. Verse 59. 

SEhc Sioorrr of Etrason. Verses 60, 61. 

Both pages are here included in the composition. 

2Tfjr Jarring Sects. Verses 62, 63. 

Above is shown the Heaven-given wine (taken lit- 
erally or typically), below the sectarianism which 
loses sight of the spirit in fierce disputes over the 

2Thf jHigrjtg jHarjmuo. Verse 64. 

Represented as Bacchus dispersing with the juice 
of the grape Physical Pain, Melancholy Madness, 
and Ambition, " The black horde that infest the 

Cf}f Ftnr. Verses 65, 66. 

Ehc^Brrscnt listrning to thr Foirrs of thr Past. 
Verses 67-69. 

2Tfjr Soul's 2rtstorr. Verses 70, 71. 

She jFatrs gathering in thr Stars. Verses 72-74. 

The artist has here carried the idea of the poet a 
step further, and represented the game as being 
played with the Universe instead of merely with 
man. Having laid aside the instruments of hu- 
man destiny, the Fates in illimitable nets now 
srather in the Stars themselves. 

limitation. Verses 75. 76. 

That of man's faculties is symbolized by the Eagle 
chained to the rock ; and the irrevocability of the 
laws of nature by the stars bound together and 
with their courses rigidly defined through space. 

STfje JJeeorMrtg 3rtgel 

Is shown, who with his attendants may well have 
ears bandaged to shut out the agonized appeals of 
humanity lifting up its hands in hopeless supplica- 

STrje ILast fHart. Verse 77. 

Alone amid the remains of his race. Love dead 
at his feet, and the spirit of Evil whispering hatred 
of "this sorry scheme." 

Hobe shrinking aftnghtcU at the sight of %z\\. 
Verse 78. 

2The fHagrtalrn. Verses 79, 80. 

In the Beginning. Verse 81. 

Omar's reasoning has carried him so far that he 
cannot believe he is a mere irresponsible agent, 
nor can he persuade himself that he is entirely re- 
sponsible. He therefore concludes that he is both 
free and fated, and this conclusion leads to the 

partem gibing ant! ^arrjon Imploring fljanos 
Filled with the tangled skein of human life. 

En the potter's l^ouse. Verses 82, 83. 

Che Sncrainlr) }3ot. Verses 84-86. 

2The ILoquaetous Uessels. Verses 87-89. 

She Bno of Bamawn. Verse 90. 

©mar's 2Tomb. Verse 91. 

Spring. Verses 93-95- 

It is useless and even pernicious, if one wishes to 


combat the seductiveness of the pleasures of the 
senses, utterly to ignore them. They exist as 
much as man's other faculties, and have their 
proper uses and place. Examine and dissect 
them, and one will be enabled to give them their 
proper weight. This is the aim of the poet against 
an overwhelming pressure in the other direction 
leading only to hypocrisy, a thing which Omar 
most of all detests. 

gout!) anti •Ige. Verse 96. 

2Efje Sorrj) Scheme. Verses 97-99. 

Looking around and seeing such creatures as the 
buzzard, which only preys on the helpless or al- 
ready wounded creatures, and beholding every- 
where life secured by another's death, Love flies 
to the heart of Man, where alone in Nature it 
finds a refuge. 

£rt fHemortam. Verses 100, 101. 

The sigh of all. Omar, with his feeble hope of a 
future, but calmly contemplating inexorable death, 
still longs for a continuance of existence, if only in 
the hearts of his companions. 

•artist's Signature. » 

If an explanation of this be required, why may it 
not, in its high and low notes, represent the light 
and shade in which this work is done? Hastily 
plucked and rudely fashioned, this double pipe is 
(the artist believes) yet capable of producing some 
music worthy of the listening ear. 



Note. For the convenience of the reader who may desire to confine himself 
to the text of Rubaiyat after studying Mr. Vedder*s accompaniment, the poem is 
here reprinted as published by Mr. Fitzgerald in his^fourth edition. This text 
was used by Mr. Vedder. but for his purpose he made occasional slight changes 
in it, interpolating indeed a verse of his own (number 44). He departed also from 
the strict order. This divergence from the order is indicated by the insertion of 
a parenthesis giving Mr. Vedder's number. Where the parenthesis is not used, 
it will be understood that Mr. Vedder's number corresponds with Mr. Fitzgerald's. 
The Notes are Mr. Fitzgerald's. 


Wake ! For the Sun who scatter'd into flight 
The Stars before him from the Field of Night, 

Drives Night along with them from Heav'n, and 
The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light. 


Before the phantom of False morning died, 1 
Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried, 
" When all the Temple is prepared within, 
Why nods the drowsy Worshipper outside ? " 


And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before 
The Tavern shouted — " Open then the door ! 
You know how little while we have to stay, 
And, once departed, may return no more." 


Now the New Year reviving old Desires, 2 
The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires, 

Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough 
Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires. 3 


Irani indeed is gone with all his Rose, 4 

And Jamshyd's Sevn-ring'd Cup where no one knows ; 

But still a Ruby gushes from the Vine, 
And many a Garden by the Water blows. 


And David's lips are lockt ; but in divine 5 
High-piping Pehlevi, with Wine ! Wine ! Wine ! 

Red Wine ! — the Nightingale cries to the R s 2 
That sallow cheek 6 of hers to incarnadine. 


Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring 
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling : 

The Bird of Time has but a little way 
To flutter — and the Bird is on the Winer. 


Whether at Naishapiir or Babylon, 
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run, 

The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop, 
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one. 


Each Morn a thousand Roses brings, you say : 
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday ? 

And this first Summer month that brings the Rose 
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away. 



Well, let it take them ! What have we to do 
With Kaikobad the Great, or Kaikhosru ? 

Let Zal and Rustum thunder as they will, 7 
Or Hatim call to Supper — heed not you. 


With me along the strip of Herbage strown 
That just divides the desert from the sown, 

Where name of Slave and Sultan is forgot — 
And Peace to Mahmud on his golden Throne ! 


A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, 

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread — and Thou 

Beside me singing in the Wilderness — 
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow ! 


Some for the Glories of This World ; and some 
Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come ; 

Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go, 
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum ! 8 


Look to the blowing Rose about us — " Lo, 
Laughing," she says, "into the world I blow, 

At once the silken tassel of my Purse 
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw." 9 



And those who husbanded the Golden grain, 
And those who flung it to the winds like Rain, 

Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd 
As, buried once, Men want dug up again. 


The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon 
Turns Ashes — or it prospers ; and anon, 

Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face, 
Lighting a little hour or two — was gone. 


Think, in this batter' d Caravanserai 
Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day, 

How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp 
Abode his destin'd' Hour, and went his way. 


They say the Lion and the Lizard keep 

The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep : 10 

And Bahrain, that great Hunter — the Wild Ass 
Stamps o'er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep. 


I sometimes think that never blows so red 
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled ; 

That every Hyacinth the Garden wears 
Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head. 



And this reviving Herb whose tender Green 
Fledges the River-Lip on which we lean — 
Ah, lean upon it lightly ! for who knows 
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen ! 


Ah, my Beloved, fill the cup that clears 
To-day of past Regret and future Fears : 

To-morrow ! — Why, To-morrow I may be 
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n thousand Years. 11 


For some we loved, the loveliest and the best 
That from his Vintage rolling Time has prest, 

Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before, 
And one by one crept silently to rest. 


And we, that now make merry in the Room 
They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom, 

Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth 
Descend — ourselves to make a Couch — for whom ? 


Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, 
Before we too into the Dust descend ; 

Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie, 
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and — sans End ! 


Alike for those who for To-day prepare, 
And those that after some Tomorrow stare, 

A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries, 
" Fools, your Reward is neither Here nor There.'' 


Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd 
Of the Two Worlds so learnedly are thrust 

Like foolish Prophets forth ; their Words to Scorn 
Are scatter' d, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust. 


Myself when young did eagerly frequent 
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument 

About it and about : but evermore 
Came out by the same door where in I went. 


With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow, 

And with my own hand wrought to make it grow ; 

And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd — 
" I came like Water, and like Wind I go." 


Into this Universe, and Why not knowing, 
Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing ; 
And out of it, as Wind along the Waste, 
I know not Whither* willy-nilly blowing. 


What, without asking, hither hurried Whence? 
And, without asking, Whither hurried hence ! 

Oh, many a Cup of this forbidden Wine 
Must drown the memory of that insolence ! 

xxxi (xxxvn) 

Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh Gate 
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate, 12 

And many a Knot unravell'd by the Road ; 
But not the Master-knot of Human Fate. 

xxxii (xxxviii) 

There was the Door to which I found no Key ; 
There was the Veil through which I could not see : 

Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee 
There was — and then no more of Thee and Me. 13 

xxxiii (xxxix) 

Earth could not answer ; nor the Seas that mourn 
In flowing Purple, of their Lord forlorn ; 

Nor rolling Heaven, with all' his Signs reveal'd 
And hidden by the sleeve of Night and Morn. 

xxxiv (xl) 

Then of the Thee in Me who works behind 
The Veil, I lifted up my hands to find 

A Lamp amid the Darkness ; and I heard, 
As from Without — " The Me within Thee blind! 



Then to the Lip of this poor earthen Urn 
I lean'd, the Secret of my Life to learn : 

And Lip to Lip it murmur' d — " While you live, 
Drink! — for, once dead, you never shall return." 

xxxvi (xlii) 

I think the Vessel, that with fugitive 
Articulation answer' d, once did live, 

And drink ; and Ah ! the passive Lip I kiss'd, 
How many Kisses might it take — and give ! 

xxxvii (xliii) 

For I remember stopping by the way 

To watch a Potter thumping his wet Clay : 

And with its all-obliterated Tongue 
It murmur'd — " Gently, Brother, gently, pray ! " M 


Listen — a moment listen ! — Of the same 

Poor Earth from which that Human Whisper came 

The luckless Mould in which Mankind was cast 
They did compose, and call'd him by the name. 

xxxix (xlv) 

And not a drop that from our Cups we throw 15 
For Earth to drink of, but may steal below 

To quench the fire of Anguish in some Eye 
There hidden — far beneath, and long ago. 


XL (XLVl) 

As then the Tulip for her morning sup 

Of Heav'nly Vintage from the soil looks up, 

Do you devoutly do the like, till Heav'n 
To Earth invert you like an empty Cup, 


Perplext no more with Human or Divine, 
To-morrow's tangle to the winds resign, 
And lose your fingers in the tresses of 
The Cypress-slender Minister of Wine, 

xlii (xlviii) 

And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press, 
End in what All begins and ends in — Yes ; 

Think then you are To-day what Yesterday 
You were — To-morrow you shall not be less. 

xliii (xlix) 

So when the Angel of the darker Drink 
At last shall find you by the river-brink, 

And, offering his Cup, invite your Soul 
Forth to your Lips to quaff — you shall not shrink. 16 

XL iv (l) 

Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside, 
And naked on the Air of Heaven ride, 

Were 't not a Shame — were 't not a Shame for him 
In this clay carcase crippled to abide ? 



'T is but a Tent where takes his one-day's rest 
A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest ; 
The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash 
Strikes, and prepares it for another Guest. 


And fear not lest Existence closing your 
Account, and mine, should know the like no more ; 

The Eternal Saki from that Bowl has pour'd 
Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour. 


When You and I behind the Veil are past, 

Oh but the long long while the World shall last, 

Which of our Coming and Departure heeds 
As the Sey'x Seas should heed a pebble-cast. 


A Moment's Halt — a momentary taste 
Of Being from the Well amid the W T aste — 

And Lo ! — the phantom Caravan has reach'd 
The Nothing it set out from — Oh, make haste ! 

xlix (lv) 

Would you that spangle of Existence spend 
About the secret — quick about it, Friend ! 

A Hair perhaps divides the False and True — 
And upon what, prithee, does Life depend ? 


L (LVl) 

A Hair perhaps divides the False and True ; 
Yes ; and a single Alif were the clue — 

Could you but find it — to the Treasure-house, 
And peradventure to The Master too ; 

li (lvii) 

Whose secret Presence, through Creation's veins 
Running Quicksilver-like eludes your pains ; 

Taking all shapes from Mah to Mahi ; 17 and 
They change and perish all — but He remains ; 

lii (lviii) 

A moment guess'd — then back behind the Fold 
Immerst of Darkness round the Drama roll'd 

Which, for the Pastime of Eternity, 
He does Himself contrive, enact, behold. 

liii (xxxn) 

But if in vain, down on the stubborn floor 

Of Earth, and up to Heav'n's unopening Door, 

You gaze To-day, while You are You — how then 
To-morrow, You when shall be You no more ? 

liv (xxxiii) 

Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit 
Of This and That endeavour and dispute ; 
Better be jocund with the fruitful Grape 
Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit. 



You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse 
I made a Second Marriage in my house ; 

Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed, 
And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse. 

lvi (lx) 

For " Is " and " Is-not " though with Rule and Line, 18 
And " Up-and-down " by Logic I define, 
Of all that one should care to fathom, I 
Was never deep in anything but — Wine. 

lvii (lxi) 

Ah, but my Computations, People say, 
Reduced the Year to better reckoning ? — Nay, 

'T was only striking from the Calendar 
Unborn To-morrdw, and dead Yesterday. 

lviii (lxii) 

And lately, by the Tavern Door agape, 

Came shining through the Dusk an Angel Shape 

Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder ; and 
He bid me taste of it ; and 't was — the Grape ! 

lix (lxiii) 

The Grape that can with Logic absolute 
The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute : 19 

The sovereign Alchemist that in a trice 
Life's leaden metal into Gold transmute : 

rubXiyat of omar khayyAm i 5 


The mighty Mahmud, Allah-breathing Lord, 
That all the misbelieving and black Horde 20 
Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul 
Scatters before him with his whirlwind Sword. 

lxi (lxv) 

Why, be this Juice the growth of God, who dare 
Blaspheme the twisted tendril as a Snare ? 

A Blessing, we should use it, should we not ? 
And if a Curse — why, then, Who set it there ? 

lxi i (lxyi) 

I must abjure the Balm of Life, I must, 
Scared by some After-reckoning ta'en on trust, 

Or lured with Hope of some Diviner Drink, 
To fill the Cup — when crumbled into Dust ! 


O threats of Hell and hopes of Paradise ! 

One thing at least is certain, — This Life flies ; 

One thing is certain and the rest is Lies ; 
The Flower that once has blown forever dies. 

lxiv (lxviii) 

Strange, is it not ? that of the myriads who 
Before us pass'd the door of Darkness through 

Not one returns to tell us of the Road, 
Which to discover we must travel too. 




The Revelations of Devout and Learn' d 
Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn'd, 

Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep 
They told their fellows, and to Sleep return'd. 

lxvi (lxx) 

I sent my Soul through the Invisible, 
Some letter of that After-life to spell ; _ 

And by and by my Soul return'd to me, 
And answer'd, " I Myself am Heav'n and Hell." 

lxvii (lxxi) 

Heav'n but the Vision of fulfill' d Desire, 
And Hell the Shadow of a Soul on fire, 

Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves, 
So late emerg'd from, shall so soon expire. 

lxviii (lxxii) 

We are no other than a moving row 

Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go 

Round with this Sun-illumin'd Lantern held 
In Midnight by the Master of the Show ; 21 


Impotent Pieces of the Game He plays 
Upon this Checker-board of Nights and Days ; 

Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays, 
And one by one back in the Closet lays. 



The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes 
But Right or Left as strikes the Player goes ; 

And He that toss'd you down into the Field, 
He knows about it all — he knows — HE knows ! 22 


The Moving Finger writes ; and, having writ, 
Moves on : nor all your Piety nor Wit 

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, 
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it. 

lxxii (lxxvi) 

And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky, 
Whereunder crawling coop'd we live and die, 
Lift not your hands to // for help — for It 
As impotently rolls as you or I. 


With Earth's first Clay They did the Last Man knead, 
And there of the Last Harvest sow'd the Seed : 

And the first Morning of Creation wrote 
What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read. 


lxxiv (xxxi) 

Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare : 
To-Morrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair : 

Drink ! for you know not whence you came, nor why 
Drink ! for you know not why you go, nor where. 


I tell you this — When, started from the Goal, 
Over the flaming shoulders of the Foal 

Of Heav'n Parwm and Mushtari they flung, 23 
In my predestin'd Plot of Dust and Soul 


The Vine had struck a fibre : which about 
If clings my Being — let the Dervish flout ; 
Of my Base metal may be filed a Key, 

That shall unlock the Door he howls without. 


And this I know : whether the one True Light 
Kindle to Love, or Wrath-consume me quite, 
One Flash of It within the Tavern caught 
Better than in the Temple lost outright. 

LXXVI 1 1 

What ! out of senseless Nothing to provoke 
A conscious Something to resent the yoke 

Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain 
Of Everlasting Penalties, if broke ! 


What, from his helpless Creature be repaid 
Pure Gold for what he lent us dross-allay'd — 

Sue for a Debt we never did contract, 
And cannot answer — Oh the sorry trade ! 



Oh Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin 
Beset the Road I was to wander in, 

Thou wilt not with Predestin'd Evil round 
Enmesh, and then impute my Fall to Sin ! 


Oh Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make 
And ev'n with Paradise devise the Snake : 

For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man 
Is blacken'd — Man's Forgiveness give — and take ! 


As under cover of departing Day 
Slunk hunger-stricken Ramazan away, 

Once more within the Potter's house alone 
I stood, surrounded by the Shapes of Clay. 

LXXXI 1 1 

Shapes of all Sorts and Sizes, great and small, 
That stood along the floor and by the wall ; 

And some loquacious Vessels were ; and some 
Listen'd perhaps, but never talk'd at all. 


Said one among them — " Surely not in vain 
My substance of the common Earth was ta'en 

And to this Figure moulded, to be broke, 
Or trampled back to shapeless Earth again." 



Then said a Second — " Ne'er a peevish Bov 
Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy : 

And He that with his hand the Vessel made 
Will surely not in after Wrath destroy." 


After a momentary silence spake 
Some Vessel of a more ungainly Make ; 

" They sneer at me for leaning all awrv : 
What ! did the Hand then of the Potter shake ? " 


Whereat some one of the loquacious Lot — 
I think a Siifi pipkin — waxing hot — 

•• All this of Pot and Potter — Tell me then. 
Who makes — Who sells — Who buys — Who is the 
Pot?" 2i 


" Why," said another. " Some there are who tell 
Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell 

The luckless Pots he marr'd in making — Pish ! 
He's a Good Fellow, and 't will all be well." 


" Well," murmur'd one. '" Let whoso make or buy, 
My Clay with long Oblivion is gone dry : 
But fill me with the old familiar Juice. 
Methinks I might recover by and by." 



So while the Vessels one by one were speaking, 
The little Moon look'd in that all were seeking : 25 

And then they jogg'd each other, " Brother ! Brother ! 
Now for the Porter's shoulder-knot a-creakins: ! " 


Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide, 
And wash the Body whence the Life has died, 

And lay me, shrouded in the living Leaf, 
By some not unfrequented Garden-side. 


That ev'n my buried Ashes such a snare 
Of Vintage shall fling up into the Air 

As not a True-believer passing by 
But shall be overtaken unaware. 


Indeed the Idols I have loved so long 

Have done my credit in Men's eyes much wrong : 

Have drown 'd my Glory in a shallow Cup, 
And sold my Reputation for a Song. 


Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before 
I swore — but was I sober when I swore ? 

And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand 
My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore. 



And much as Wine has play'd the Infidel, 
And robb'd me of my Robe of Honour — Well, 

I wonder often what the Vintners buy 
One half so precious as the stuff they sell. 


Yet Ah, that Spring should vanish with the Rose ! 
That Youth's sweet-scented manuscript should close ! 

The Nightingale that in the branches sang, 
Ah whence, and whither flown again, who knows ! 


Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield 
One glimpse — if dimly, yet indeed, reveal'd, 

To which the fainting Traveller might spring, 
As springs the trampled herbage of the field ! 


Would but some winged Angel ere too late 
Arrest the yet unfolded Roll of Fate, 

And make the stern Recorder otherwise 
Enregister, or quite obliterate ! 


Ah Love ! could you and I with Him conspire 
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, 
Would not we shatter it to bits — and then 
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire ! 


Yon rising Moon that looks for us again — 
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane ; 

How oft hereafter rising look for us 
Through this same Garden — and for one in vain ! 


And when like her, oh Saki, you shall pass 
Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass, 

And in your blissful errand reach the spot 
Where I made One — turn down an empty Glass ! 



1 The "False Dawnj" Subhi Kazib, a transient Light on the 
Horizon about an hour before the Subhi sdciifc, or True Dawn; a 
well-known Phenomenon in the East. 

2 New Year. Beginning with the Vernal Equinox, it must be 
remembered ; and (howsoever the old Solar Year is practically 
superseded by the clumsy Lunar Year that dates from the Moham- 
medan Hijra) still commemorated by a Festival that is said to have 
been appointed by the very Jamshyd whom Omar so often talks of, 
and whose yearly Calendar he helped to rectify. 

•• The sudden approach and rapid advance of the Spring," says 
Mr. Binning, " are very striking. Before the Snow is well off the 
Ground, the Trees burst into Blossom, and the Flowers start from 
the Soil. At Naw Roos {their New Year's Day) the Snow was 
lying in patches on the Hills and in the shaded Vallies, while the 
Fruit-trees in the Garden were budding beautifully, and green 
Plants and Flowers springing upon the Plains on every side — 

' And on old Hyems' Chin and icy Crown 
An odorous Chaplet of sweet Summer buds 
Is, as in mockery, set — ' 

Among the Plants newly appear'd I recognized some Acquain- 
tances I had not seen for many a Year : among these, two varieties 
of the Thistle : a coarse species of the Daisy, like the Horse-gowan ; 
red and white Clover; the Dock; the blue Corn-flower; and that 
vulgar Herb the Dandelion rearing its yellow crest on the Banks 
of the Watercourses." The Nightingale was not yet heard, for the 
Rose was not yet blown : but an almost identical Blackbird and 
Woodpecker helped to make up something of a North-country 

3 Exodus iv. 6 ; where Moses draws forth his Hand — not, 
according to the Persians, " leprous as Snow" — but white, as our 


May-blossom in Spring perhaps. According to them also the 
Healing Power of Jesus resided in his Breath. 

4 Irani, planted by King Shaddad, and now sunk somewhere in 
the Sands of Arabia. Jamshyd's Seven-ring'd Cup was typical of 
the 7 Heavens, 7 Planets, 7 Seas, &c, and was a Divining Cup. 

5 PeJilevi, the old Heroic Sanskrit of Persia. Haflz also speaks 
of the Nightingale's Pe'hlevi, which did not change with the Peo- 

6 I am not sure if this refers to the Red Rose looking sickly, or 
the Yellow Rose that ought to be Red ; Red, White, and Yellow 
Roses are all common in Persia. I think Southey, in his Common- 
Place Book, quotes from some Spanish author about Rose being 
White till 10 o'clock ; " Rosa Perfecta" at 2 ; and "perfecta incar- 
nada " at 5. 

7 Rustum, the " Hercules" of Persia, and Zal his Father, whose 
exploits are among the most celebrated in the Shah-nama. Hatim 
Tai, a well-known Type of Oriental Generosity. 

8 A Drum — beaten outside a Palace. 

9 That is, the Rose's Golden Centre. 

10 Persepolis : call'd also Takhfi Jamshyd — The Throne of 
Jamshyd, " King Splendid.'" of the mythical Peeshdddian Dy- 
nasty, and supposed (according to the Shah-nama) to have been 
founded and built by him. Others refer it to the Work of the 
Genie King, Jan Ibn Jan — who also built the Pyramids — before 
the time of Adam. 

Bahram Gijr — Bahrain of the Wild Ass — a Sassanian Sov- 
ereign — had also his Seven Castles (like the King of Bohemia !) 
each of a different Colour; each with a Royal Mistress within; 
each of whom tells him a Story, as told in one of the most famous 
Poems of Persia, written by Amir Khusraw ; all these Sevens also 
figuring (according to Eastern Mysticism) the Seven Heavens ; 
and perhaps the Book itself that Eighth, into which the mystical 
Seven transcend, and within which they revolve. The Ruins of 
Three of these Towers are yet shown by the Peasantry ; as also the 
Swamp in which Bahram sunk, like the Master of Ravenswood, 
while pursuing his Gi'tr. 

" The Palace that to Heav'n his pillars threw, 
And Kines the forehead on his threshold drew — 


I saw the solitary Ringdove there, 
And ' Coo, coo, coo,' she cried ; and ' Coo, coo, coo.' " 

This Quatrain Mr. Binning found, among several of Hafiz and 
others, inscribed by some stray hand among the ruins of Persep- 
olis. The Ringdove's ancient Pelilevi Coo, Coo, Coo, signifies also 
in Persian " Where ? Where ? Where ? " In Attar's " Bird-parlia- 
ment " she is reproved by the Leader of the Birds for sitting still, 
and for ever harping on that one note of lamentation for her lost 

Apropos of Omar's Red Roses in Stanza xix., I am reminded of 
an old English Superstition, that our Anemone Pulsatilla, or pur- 
ple " Basque Flower " (which grows plentifully about the Fleam 
Dyke, near Cambridge), grows only where Danish blood has been 

11 A thousand years to each Planet. 

12 Saturn, Lord of the Seventh Heaven. 

13 Me-and-Thee : some dividual Existence or Personality dis- 
tinct from the Whole. 

14 One of the Persian Poets — Attar, I think — has a pretty 
story about this. A thirsty Traveller dips his hand into a Spring 
of Water to drink from. By and by comes another who draws up 
and drinks from an earthen Bowl, and then departs, leaving his 
Bowl behind him. The first Traveller takes it up for another 
draught ; but is surprised to find that the same Water which had 
tasted sweet from his own hand tastes bitter from the earthen 
Bowl. But a Voice — from Heaven, I think — tells him the Clay 
from which the Bowl is made was once Man ; and, into whatever 
shape renew'd, can never lose the bitter flavour of Mortality. 

15 The custom of throwing a little Wine on the ground before 
drinking still continues in Persia, and perhaps generally in the 
East. Monsieur Nicolas considers it " un signe de liberalite, et en 
meme temps un avertissement que le buveur doit vider sa coupe 
jusqua la derniere goutte. v Is it not more likely an ancient Super- 
stition : a Libation to propitiate Earth, or make her an Accomplice 
in the illicit Revel ? Or, perhaps, to divert the Jealous Eye by some 
sacrifice of superfluity, as with the Ancients of the West ? With 
Omar we see something more is signified ; the precious Liquor is 


not lost, but sinks into the ground to refresh the dust of some 
poor Wine-worshipper foregone. 

Thus Hafiz, copying Omar in so many ways : " When thou 
drinkest Wine pour a draught on the ground. Wherefore fear the 
Sin which brings to another Gain ? " 

16 According to one beautiful Oriental Legend, Azrael accom- 
plishes his mission by holding to the nostril an Apple from the 
Tree of Life. 

This and the two following Stanzas would have been withdrawn, 
as somewhat de troft, from the Text but for advice which I least 
like to disregard. 

17 From Mali to Mahi ; from Fish to Moon. 

18 A Jest, of course, at his Studies. A curious mathematical 
Quatrain of Omar's has been pointed out to me ; the more curi- 
ous because almost exactly parallel'd by some Verses of Doctor 
Donne's, that are quoted in Izaak W T alton's Lives ! Here is Omar : 
" You and I are the image of a pair of compasses ; though we have 
two heads (sc. our feet) we have one body ; when we have fixed the 
centre for our circle, we bring our heads (sc. feet) together at the 
end." Dr. Donne : — 

" If we be,two, we two are so 

As stiff twin-compasses are two ; 
Thy Soul, the fixt foot, makes no show 
To move, but does if the other do. 

" And though thine in the centre sit, 

Yet when my other far does roam, 
Thine leans and hearkens after it, 

And grows erect as mine comes home. 

" Such thou must be to me, who must 

Like the other foot obliquely run ; 
Thy firmness makes my circle just, 
And me to end where I begun." 

19 The Seventy-two Religions supposed to divide the World, 
iticluding Islamism, as some think : but others not. 

20 Alluding to Sultan Mahmud's Conquest of India and its dark 


21 Fdmisi khiyaZ, a Magic-lanthorn still used in India; the cylin- 
drical Interior being painted with various Figures, and so lightly 
poised and ventilated as to revolve round the lighted Candle 

22 A very mysterious Line in the Original : — 

" O danad O danad O danad O " — 

breaking off something like our Wood-pigeon's Note, which she is 
said to take up just where she left off. 

23 Parwfn and Mushtari — The Pleiads and Jupiter. 

24 This relation of Pot and Potter to man and his Maker figures 
far and wide in the Literature of the World, from the time of the 
Hebrew Prophets to the present ; when it may finally take the name 
of * 4 Pottheism," by which Mr. Carlyle ridiculed Sterling's " Pan- 
theism." My Sheikh, whose knowledge flows in from all quarters, 
writes to me : — 

" Apropos of old Omar's Pots, did I ever tell you the sentence I 
found in ' Bishop Pearson on the Creed ' ? ' Thus are we wholly 
at the disposal of His will, and our present and future condition, 
framed and ordered by His free, but wise and just, decrees. 
" Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the sanie lump to 
make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonozir ? " 
(Rom. ix. 21.) And can that earth-artificer have a freer power 
over his brother potsherd (both being made of the same metal), 
than God hath over him, who, by the strange fecundity of His 
omnipotent power, first made the clay out of nothing, and then him 
out of that ? ' " 

And again — from a very different quarter — "I had to refer 
the other day to Aristophanes, and came by chance on a curious 
Speaking-pot story in the Vespae, which I had quite forgotten. 

4>i Ao/cAe <a v. "A/coue, ($ cpevy' iv ~2.vfia.pei yvvi] irore 1.1435 

Kareag kyl.vov. 

KaTTjyopos, Tavr iyw jxapTvpofxai. 

4» t Oux^vos oZv ix°* v TLU ' eire /jLaprvparo' 

Ei6' 7] SuySapirts e?7re*/, ii va\ rav Kopav 
tV jiaprvpiav ravrriv idaas, iv rdxei 
iTriSea/uLOU sirpia, vovvav et'xes irXtiova. 


■• The pot calls a bystander to be a witness to his bad treatment. 
The woman says. ' If. by Proserpine, instead of all this " testifying '* 
(comp. Cuddie and his mother in " Old Mortality " !) you would buy 
yourself a trivet, it would show more sense in you I ' The Scholiast 
explains echinus as &yyos ti in Kepd/j.ov." 

25 At the Close of the Fasting Month. Ramazan (which makes 
the Musulman unhealthy and unamiable i. the first Glimpse of the 
Xew Moon .who rules their division of the Year), is looked for 
with the utmost Anxiety, and hailed with Acclamation. Then it is 
that the Porter's Knot may be heard — toward the Cellar. Omar 
has elsewhere a pretty Quatrain about this same Moon : — 

•• Be of Good Cheer — the sullen Month will die. 
And a young Moon requite us by and by : 

Look how the Old one meagre, bent, and wan 
With Age and Fast, is fainting from the Sky ! '' 



Omar Khayyam was born at Naishapur, in Khorasan, 
in the latter half of our Eleventh, and died within the 
First Quarter of our Twelfth Century. The slender 
Story of his Life is curiously twined about that of two 
other very considerable Figures in their Time and 
Country : one of whom tells the Story of all Three. 
This was Nizam-ul-Mulk, Vizyr to Alp Arslan the Son, 
and Malik Shah the Grandson, of Toghrul Beg the Tar- 
tar, who had wrested Persia from the feeble Successor 
of Mahmud the Great, and founded that Seljukian 
Dynasty which finally roused Europe into the Crusades. 
This Nizam-ul-Mulk, in his Wasiyat — or Testament — 
which he wrote and left as a Memorial for future 
Statesmen — relates the following, as quoted in the 
Calcutta Review, No. 59, from Mirkhond's History of 
the Assassins : — 

" ' One of the greatest of the wise men of Khorassan 
was the Imam Mowaffak of Naishapur, a man highly hon- 
oured and reverenced, — may God rejoice his soul ; his 
illustrious years exceeded eighty-five, and it was the uni- 
versal belief that every boy who read the Koran or 
studied the traditions in his presence, would assuredly 
attain to honour and happiness. For this cause did my 
father send me from Tus to Naishapur with Abd-us- 


samad, the doctor of law, that I might employ myself in 
study and learning under the guidance of that illustri- 
ous teacher. Towards me he ever turned an eye of 
favour and kindness, and as his pupil, I felt for him 
extreme affection and devotion, so that I passed four 
years in his service. When I first came there, I found 
two other pupils of mine own age newly arrived, Hakim 
Omar Khayyam, and the ill-fated Ben Sabbah. Both 
were endowed with sharpness of wit and the highest 
natural powers ; and we three formed a close friendship 
together. When the Imam rose from his lectures, they 
used to join me, and we repeated to each other the 
lessons we had heard. Xow Omar was a native of 
Naishapur, while Hasan Ben Sabbah's father was one 
Ali, a man of austere life and practice, but heretical in 
his creed and doctrine. One day Hasan said to me and 
to Khayyam, " It is a universal belief that the pupils of 
the Imam Mowaffak will attain to fortune. Now, even 
if we all do not attain thereto, without doubt one of us 
will ; what then shall be our mutual pledge and bond ? " 
We answered, " Be it what you please." "Well," he 
said, " let us make a vow, that to whomsoever this for- 
tune falls, he shall share it equally with the rest, and 
reserve no preeminence for himself." "Be it so," we 
both replied, and on those terms we mutually pledged 
our words. Years rolled on, and I went from Khoras- 
san to Transoxiana, and wandered to Ghazni and Cabul ; 
and when I returned, I was invested with office, and 
rose to be administrator of affairs during the Sultanate 
of Sultan Alp Arslan.' 

"He goes on to state that years passed by, and both 


his old school-friends found him out, and came and 
claimed a share in his good fortune, according to the 
school-day vow. The Vizier was generous and kept 
his word. Hasan demanded a place in the govern- 
ment, which the Sultan granted at the Vizier's request ; 
but discontented with a gradual rise, he plunged into 
the maze of intrigue of an oriental court, and, failing in 
a base attempt to supplant his benefactor, he was dis- 
graced and fell. After many mishaps and wanderings, 
Hasan became the head of the Persian sect of the 
Ismailians, — a party of fanatics who had long mur- 
mured in obscurity, but rose to an evil eminence under 
the guidance of his strong and evil will. In a. d. 1090 
he seized the castle of Alamut, in the province of Rud- 
bar, which lies in the mountainous tract, south of the 
Caspian Sea ; and it was from this mountain home he 
obtained that evil celebrity among the Crusaders as the 
terror through the Mohammedan world ; and it is yet 
disputed whether the word Assassin, which they have 
left in the language of modern Europe as their dark me- 
morial, is derived from the hashish or opiate of hemp- 
leaves (the Indian bJiang), with which they maddened 
themselves to the sullen pitch of oriental desperation, or 
from the name of the founder of the dynasty, whom we 
have seen in his quiet collegiate days, at Naishapur. 
One of the countless victims of the Assassin's dagger 
was Nizam-ul-Mulk himself, the old school-boy friend. 1 

1 Some of Omar's Rubaiyat warn us of the danger of Greatness, 
the instability of Fortune, and while advocating Charity to all 
Men.- recommending us be too intimate with none. Attar makes 


■■ Omar Khayyam also came to the Vizier to claim 
the -hare; but not to ask for title or office. 'The 
greatest boon you can confer on me,' he said, ' is to let 
me live in a corner under the shadow of your fortune, 
to spread wide the advantages of Science, and pray for 
vour long life and prosperity." The Vizier tells us, that, 
when he found Omar was really sincere in his refusal, 
he pressed him no further, but granted him a yearly 
pension of twelve hundred miiJikdls of gold from the 
treasury of Naishapur. 

" At Naishapur thus lived and died Omar Khayyam, 
f busied, 5 adds the Vizier, 'in winning knowledge of 
every kind, and especially in Astronomy, wherein he 
attained to a very high preeminence. Under the Sul- 
tanate of Malik Shah, he came to Merv, and obtained 
great praise for his proficiency in science, and the 
Sultan showered favours upon him.' 

" When Malik Shah determined to reform the calen- 
dar, Omar was one of the eight learned men employed 
to do it ; the result was the Jaldli era (so called from 
Jalal-u-diu. one of the king's names) — 'a computation 
of time,' says Gibbon, ' which surpasses the Julian, and 
approaches the accuracy of the Gregorian style.' He is 
also the author of some astronomical tables, entitled 
' Ziji-Malikshahi',' and the French have lately repub- 
lished and translated an Arabic Treatise of his on 

" His Takhallus or poetical name (Khayyam) signifies 

Xizam-ul-Mulk use the very words of his friend Omar [Rub.xxviii.] 
■• When N izam-ul-Mulk was in the agony (of Death) he said, * O 
God ! I am passing away in the hand of the Wind." '* 


a Tent-maker, and he is said to have at one time exer- 
cised that trade, perhaps before Nizam-ul-Mulk's gener- 
osity raised him to independence. Many Persian poets 
similarly derive their names from their occupations ; 
thus we have Attar ' a druggist,' Assar 'an oil presser,' 
etc. 1 Omar himself alludes to his name in the follow- 
ing whimsical lines : — 

" ' Khayyam, who stitched the tents of science, 

Has fallen in grief's furnace and been suddenly burned ; 
The shears of Fate have cut the tent ropes of his life, 
And the broker of Hope has sold him for nothing ! ' 

" We have only one more anecdote to give of his Life, 
and that relates to the close ; it is told in the anony- 
mous preface which is sometimes prefixed to his poems ; 
it has been printed in the Persian in the appendix 
to Hyde's 'Veterum Persarum Religio,' p. 499; and 
D'Herbelot alludes to it in his Bibliotheque under 
KJiiam : 2 — 

" ' It is written in the chronicles of the ancients that 
this King of the Wise, Omar Khayyam, died at Naisha- 
pur in the year of the Hegira, 517 (a. d. 1123); in 
science he was unrivalled, — the very paragon of his 
age.' Khwajah Nizami of Samarcand, who was one of 
his pupils, relates the following story : ' I often used to 
hold conversations with my teacher, Omar Khayyam, in 
a garden ; and one day he said to me, " My tomb shall 

1 Though all these, like our Smiths, Archers, Millers, Fletchers, 
etc., may simply retain the Surname of an hereditary calling. 

2 " Philosophe Musulman qui a vecu en Odeur de Saintete dans 
la Fin du premier et le Commencement du second Siecle," no part 
of which, except the " Philosophe," can apply to our Khayyam. 


be in a spot where the north wind may scatter roses 
over it." I wondered at the words he spake, but I 
knew that his were no idle words. 1 Years after, when I 
chanced to revisit Naishapur, I went to his final resting- 
place, and lo ! it was just outside a garden, and trees 
laden with fruit stretched their boughs over the garden 
wall, and dropped their flowers upon his tomb, so as the 
stone was hidden under them.' " 

Thus far — without fear of Trespass — from the " Cal- 
cutta Review." The writer of it, on reading in India 
this story of Omar's Grave, was reminded, he says, of 
Cicero's Account of finding Archimedes' Tomb at Syra- 
cuse, buried in grass and weeds. I think Thorwaldsen 
desired to have roses grow over him ; a wish religiously 
fulfilled for him to the present day, I believe. How- 
ever, to return to Omar. 

1 The Rashness of the Words, according to D'Herbelot. con- 
sisted in being so opposed to those in the Koran : " No Man knows 
where he shall die." — This Story of Omar reminds me of another 
so naturally — and, when one remembers how wide of his humble 
mark the noble sailor aimed — so pathetically told by Captain Cook 
— not by Doctor Hawkesworth — in his second voyage. When 
leaving Ulietea, " Oreo's last request was for me to return. When 
he saw he could not obtain that promise, he asked the name of my 
Marai — Burying-place. As strange a question as this was, I hes- 
itated not a moment to tell him • Stepney,' the parish in which I 
live when in London. I was made to repeat it several times over 
till they could pronounce it ; and then ' Stepney Marai no Tootee ' 
was echoed through a hundred mouths at once. I afterwards 
found the same question had been put to Mr. Forster by a man on 
shore ; but he gave a different, and indeed more proper answer, 
by saying, ' No man who used the sea could say where he should 
be buried.' " 


Though the Sultan "shower'd Favours upon him," 
Omar's Epicurean Audacity of Thought and Speech 
caused him to be regarded askance in his own Time and 
Country. He is said to have been especially hated and 
dreaded by the Sufis, whose Practice he ridiculed, and 
whose faith amounts to little more than his own when 
stript of the Mysticism and formal recognition of Islam- 
ism under which Omar would not hide. Their Poets, 
including Hafiz, who are (with the exception of Fir- 
dausi) the most considerable in Persia, borrowed 
largely, indeed, of Omar's material, but turning it to a 
mystical Use more convenient to Themselves and the 
People they addressed ; a People quite as quick of Doubt 
as of Belief ; as keen of Bodily Sense as of Intellectual ; 
and delighting in a cloudy composition of both, in which 
they could float luxuriously between Heaven and Earth, 
and this World and the Xext, on the wings of a poetical 
expression, that might serve indifferently for either. 
-Omar was too honest of Heart as well as of Head for 
this. Having failed (however mistakenly) of finding 
any Providence but Destiny, and any World but This, 
he set about making the most of it ; preferring rather to 
soothe the Soul through the Senses into Acquiescence 
with Things as he saw them, than to perplex it with 
vain disquietude after what they might be. It has been 
seen, however, that his Worldly Ambition was not exor- 
bitant ; and he very likely takes a humorous or perverse 
pleasure in exalting the gratification of Sense above 
that of the Intellect, in which he must have taken 
co-eat delio-ht, although it failed to answer the Ouestions 
in which he, in common with all men, was most vitally 


For whatever Reason, however, Omar, as before said, 
has never been popular in his own Country, and there- 
fore has been but scantily transmitted abroad. The 
MSS. of his Poems, mutilated beyond the average Casual- 
ties of Oriental Transcription, are so rare in the East as 
scarce to have reacht Westward at all, in spite of all the 
acquisitions of Arms and Science. There is no copy 
at the India House, none at the Bibliotheque Imperi- 
ale of Paris. We know but of one in England : No. 140 
of the Ouseley MSS. at the Bodleian, written at Shi- 
raz, a. d. 1460. This contains but 158 Rubaiyat. One 
in the Asiatic Society's Library at Calcutta (of which 
we have a copy) contains (and yet incomplete) 516, 
though swelled to that by all kinds of Repetition and 
Corruption. So Von Hammer speaks of his copy as 
containing about 200, while Dr. Sprenger catalogues the 
Lucknow MS. at double that number. 1 The Scribes, 
too, of the Oxford^ and Calcutta MSS. seem to do 
their Work under a sort of Protest ; each beginning 
with a Tetrastich (whether genuine or not), taken out of 
its alphabetical order ; the Oxford with one of Apology ; 
the Calcutta with one of Expostulation, supposed (sa ys 
a Notice prefixed to the MS.) to have risen from a 
Dream, in which Omar's mother asked about his future 
fate. It may be rendered thus : — 

'* O Thou who burn'st in Heart for those who burn 

In Hell, whose fires thyself shall feed in tarn : 

1 •' Since this Paper was written (adds the Reviewer in a note) we 
have met with a copy of a very rare Edition, printed at Calcutta in 
1836. This contains 438 Terrastichs, with an Appendix containing 
54 others not found in some MS 5, 

omar khayyIm 39 

How long be crying, ' Mercy on them, God ! ' 
Why, who art Thou to teach, and He to learn ? " 

The Bodleian Quatrain pleads Pantheism by way of 
Justification : — 

** If I myself upon a looser Creed 
Have loosely strung the Jewel of Good deed, 
Let this one thing for my Atonement plead : 
That One for Two I never did mis-read." 

The Reviewer, to whom I owe the Particulars of 
Omar's Life, concludes his Review by comparing him 
with Lucretius, both as to natural Temper and Genius, 
and as acted upon by the Circumstances in which he 
lived. Both indeed were men of subtle, strong:, and 
cultivated Intellect, fine Imagination, and Hearts pas- 
sionate for Truth and Justice ; who justly revolted from 
their Country's false Religion, and false, or foolish, 
Devotion to it ; but who yet fell short of replacing what 
they subverted by such better Hope as others, with no 
better Revelation to guide them, had yet made a Law 
to themselves. Lucretius, indeed, with such material as 
Epicurus furnished, satisfied himself with the theory of 
so vast a machine fortuitously constructed, and acting 
by a Law that implied no Legislator ; and so compos- 
ing himself into a Stoical rather than Epicurean severity 
of Attitude, sat down to contemplate the mechanical 
Drama of the Universe which he was part Actor in ; 
himself and all about him (as in his own sublime de- 
scription of the Roman Theatre) discoloured with the 
lurid reflex of the Curtain suspended between the Spec- 
tator and the Sun. Omar, more desperate, or more 


careless of any so complicated System as resulted in no- 
thing but hopeless Necessity, flung his own Genius and 
Learning with a bitter or humorous jest into the general 
Ruin which their insufficient glimpses only served to 
reveal ; and, pretending sensual pleasure as the serious 
purpose of Life, only diverted himself with speculative 
problems of Deity, Destiny, Matter and Spirit, Good 
and Evil, and other such questions, easier to start than 
to run down, and the pursuit of which becomes a very 
weary sport at last ! 

With regard to the present Translation. The original 
Rubaiyat (as, missing an Arabic Guttural, these Tetra- 
stichs are more musically called) are independent Stan- 
zas, consisting each of four Lines of equal, though varied, 
Prosody ; sometimes all rhyming, but oftener (as here 
imitated) the third line a blank. Something as in the 
Greek Alcaic, where the penultimate line seems to lift 
and suspend the Wave that falls over in the last. As 
usual with such kind of Oriental Verse, the Rubaiyat 
follow one another according to Alphabetic Rhyme — a 
strange succession of Grave and Gay. Those here se- 
lected are strung into something of an Eclogue, with 
perhaps a less than equal proportion of the " Drink and 
makenierry," which (genuine or not) recurs over-fre- 
quently in the Original. Either way, the Result is sad 
enough — saddest perhaps when most ostentatiously 
merry : more apt to move Sorrow than Anger toward 
the old Tentmaker, who, after vainly endeavouring to 
unshackle his Steps from Destiny, and to catch some 
authentic Glimpse of To-morrow, fell back upon To-day 
(which has outlasted so many To-morrows !) as the only 


Ground he got to stand upon, however momentarily 
slipping from under his Feet. 

While the second Edition of this version of Omar 
was preparing, Monsieur Nicolas, French Consul at 
Resht, published a very careful and very good Edition 
of the Text, from a lithograph copy at Teheran, compris- 
ing 464 Rubaiyat, with translation and notes of his own. 

Monsieur Nicolas, whose Edition has reminded me 
of several things, and instructed me in others, does 
not consider Omar to be the material Epicurean that I 
have literally taken him for, but a Mystic, shadowing the 
Deity under the figure of Wine, Wine-bearer, etc., as 
Hafiz is supposed to do ; in short, a Sufi Poet like Hafiz 
and the rest. 

I cannot see reason to alter my opinion, formed as it 
was more than a dozen years ago when Omar was first 
shown me by one to whom I am indebted for all I know 
of Oriental, and very much of other, literature. He 
admired Omar's Genius so much, that he would gladly 
have adopted any such Interpretation of his meaning as 
Monsieur Nicolas, if he could. 1 That he could not, 
appears by his Paper in the "Calcutta Review " already 
so largely quoted ; in which he argues from the Poems 
themselves, as well as from what records remain of the 
Poet's Life. And if more were needed to disprove 
Monsieur Nicolas' theory, there is the Biographical No- 

1 Perhaps would have edited the Poems himself some years ago. 
He may now as little approve of my Version on one side, as of 
Monsieur Nicolas' Theory on the other. 


tice which he himself has drawn up in direct contradic- 
tion to the Interpretation of the Poems given in his 
Notes. (See pp. 13-14 of his Preface.) Indeed I 
hardly knew poor Omar was so far gone till his Apolo- 
gist informed me. For here we see that, whatever were 
the Wine that Hafiz drank and sang, the veritable Juice 
of the Grape it was which Omar used, not only when 
carousing with his friends, but (says Monsieur Nicolas) in 
order to excite himself to that pitch of Devotion which 
others reached by cries and " hurlemens." And yet, 
whenever Wine, Wine-bearer, etc., occur in the Text 
— which is often enough — Monsieur Nicolas carefully 
annotates "Dieu," " La Divinite," etc. : so carefully in- 
deed that one is tempted to think that he was indoctri- 
nated by the Sufi with whom he read the Poems. (Note 
to Rub. ii. p. 8.) A Persian would naturally wish to 
vindicate a distinguished Countryman ; and a Sufi to 
enrol him in his own sect, which already comprises all 
the chief Poets of Persia. 

What historical Authority has Monsieur Nicolas to 
show that Omar gave himself up " avec passion a l'etude 
de la philosophic des Soufis " ? (Preface, p. xiii.) The 
Doctrines of Pantheism, Materialism, Necessity, etc., 
were not peculiar to the Sufi ; nor to Lucretius before 
them ; nor to Epicurus before him ; probably the very 
original Irreligion of Thinking men from the first ; and 
very likely to be the spontaneous growth of a Philosopher 
living in an Age of social and political barbarism, under 
shadow of one of the Two and Seventy Religions sup- 
posed to divide the world. Von Hammer (according to 
Sprenger's Oriental Catalogue) speaks of Omar as "a 

omar khayyXm 43 

Free-Thinker, and a great opponent of Sufism ; " per- 
haps because, while holding much of their Doctrine, he 
would not pretend to any inconsistent severity of morals. 
Sir W. Ouseley has written a Note to something of the 
same effect on the fly-leaf of the Bodleian MS. And in 
two Rubaiyat of Monsieur Nicolas' own Edition Suf and 
Sufi are both disparagingly named. 

No doubt many of these Quatrains seem unaccountable 
unless mystically interpreted ; but many more as un- 
accountable unless literally. Were the Wine spiritual, 
for instance, how wash the Body with it when dead ? 
Why make cups of the dead clay to be filled with — 
" La Divinite " — by some succeeding Mystic ? Monsieur 
Nicolas himself is puzzled by some " bizarres " and " trop 
Orientales " allusions and images — " d'une sensualite 
quelquefois revoltante," indeed — which "les conven- 
ances" do not permit him to translate ; but still which 
the reader cannot but refer to " La Divinite. " : No 
doubt also many of the Quatrains in the Teheran, as in 
the Calcutta, Copies, are spurious ; such Rubaiyat being 

1 A Note to Quatrain 234 admits that, however clear the mystical 
meaning of such Images must be to Europeans, they are not quoted 
without " rougissant " even by laymen in Persia — " Quant aux 
termes de tendresse qui commencent ce quatrain, comme tant d'au- 
tres dans ce recueil, nos lecteurs, habitues maintenant a l'etrangete 
des expressions si souvent employes par Kheyam pour rendre ses 
pensees sur l'amour divin, et a la singularity des images trop orien- 
tales, d'une sensualite quelquefois revoltante, n'auront pas de peine 
a se persuader qu'il s'agit de la Divinite, bien que cette conviction 
soit vivement discutee par les moullahs musulmans, et meme par 
beaucoup de laiques, qui rougissent veritablement d'une pareille 
licence de leur compatriote a l'egard des choses spirituelles." 


the common form of Epigram in Persia. But this, at 
best, tells as much one way as another ; nay, the Sufi, 
who may be considered the Scholar and Man of Letters 
in Persia, would be far more likely than the careless 
Epicure to interpolate what favours his own view of the 
Poet. V I observe that very few of the more mystical 
Quatrains are in the Bodleian MS., which must be one 
of the oldest, as dated at Shiraz, a. h. 865, a. d. 1460. 
And this, I think, especially distinguishes Omar (I can- 
not help calling him by his — no, not Christian — famil- 
iar name) from all other Persian Poets : That, whereas 
with them the Poet is lost in his Song, the Man in Alle- 
gory and Abstraction ; we seem to have the Man — the 
Bonhomme — Omar himself, with all his Humours and 
Passions, as frankly before us as if we were really at 
Table with him, after the Wine had gone round. 

I must say that I, for one, never wholly believed in 
the Mysticism of Hafiz. It does not appear there was any 
danger in holding and singing Sufi Pantheism, so long 
as the Poet made his Salaam to Mohammed at the be- 
o-innino- and end of his Sons:. Under such conditions 
Jelaluddm, Jami, Attar, and others sang ; using Wine 
and Beauty indeed as Images to illustrate, not as a 
Mask to hide, the Divinity they were celebrating. Per- 
haps some Allegory less liable to mistake or abuse had 
been better among so inflammable a People : much more 
so when, as some think with Hafiz and Omar, the ab- 
stract is not only likened to, but indentified with, the 
sensual Image ; hazardous, if not to the Devotee himself, 
yet to his weaker Brethren ; and worse for the Profane 
in proportion as the Devotion of the Initiated grew 


warmer. And all for what ? To be tantalized with 
Images of sensual enjoyment which must be renounced 
if one would approximate a God, who, according to the 
Doctrine, is Sensual Matter as well as Spirit, and into 
whose Universe one expects unconsciously to merge 
after Death, without hope of any posthumous Beatitude 
in another world to compensate for all one's self-denial 
in this. Lucretius' blind Divinity certainly merited, 
and probably got, as much self-sacrifice as this of the 
Sufi ; and the burden of Omar's Song — if not " Let us 
eat" — is assuredly — "Let us drink, for To-morrow 
we die ! " And if Hafiz meant quite otherwise by a 
similiar language, he surely miscalculated when he de- 
voted his Life and Genius to so equivocal a Psalmody as, 
from his Day to this, has been said and sung by any 
rather than spiritual Worshippers. 

However, as there is some traditional presumption, 
and certainly the opinion of some learned men, in fa- 
vour of Omar's being a Sufi, — and even something of 
a Saint, — those who please may so interpret his Wine 
and Cup-bearer. On the other hand, as there is far 
more historical certainty of his being a Philosopher, of 
scientific Insight and Ability far beyond that of the 
Age and Country he lived in ; of such moderate worldly 
Ambition as becomes a Philosopher, and such moderate 
wants as rarely satisfy a Debauchee ; other readers may 
be content to believe with me that, while the Wine 
Omar celebrates is simply the Juice of the Grape, he 
bragg'd more than he drank of it, in very Defiance 
perhaps of that Spiritual Wine which left its Votaries 
sunk in Hypocrisy or Disgust. 



Edward Fitzgerald, whom the world has already 
learned, in spite of his own efforts to remain within the 
shadow of anonymity, to look upon as one of the rarest 
poets of the century, was born at Bredfield, in Suffolk, 
on the 31st March, 1809. He was the third son of John 
Purcell, of Kilkenny, in Ireland, who, marrying Miss 
Mary Frances Fitzgerald, daughter of John Fitzgerald, 
of Williamstown, County Waterford, added that distin- 
guished name to his own patronymic ; and the future 
Omar was thus doubly of Irish extraction. (Both the 
families of Purcell and Fitzgerald claim descent from 
Norman warriors of the eleventh century.) This cir- 
cumstance is thought to have had some influence in at- 
tracting him to the study of Persian poetry, Iran and 
Erin being almost convertible terms in the early days of 
modern ethnology. After some years of primary edu- 
cation at the grammar school of Bury St. Edmunds, he 
entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1826, and there 
formed acquaintance with several young men of great 
abilities, most of whom rose to distinction before him, 
but never ceased to regard with affectionate remem- 
brance the quiet and amiable associate of their college 
days. Amongst them were Alfred Tennyson, James 
Spedding, William Bodham Donne, John Mitchell Kem- 


ble, and William Makepeace Thackeray ; and their long 
friendship has been touchingly referred to by the Lau- 
reate in dedicating his last poem to the memory of Ed- 
ward Fitzgerald. " Euphranor," our author's earliest 
printed work, affords a curious picture of his academic 
life and associations. Its substantial reality is evident 
beneath the thin disguise of the symbolical or classical 
names which he gives to the personages of the colloquy ; 
and the speeches which he puts into his own mouth are 
full of the humorous gravity, the whimsical and kindly 
philosophy, which remained his distinguishing charac- 
teristics till the end. This book was first published in 
185 1 ; a second and a third edition were printed some 
years later ; all anonymous, and each of the latter two 
differing from its predecessor by changes in the text 
which were not indicated on the title-pages. 

" Euphranor " furnishes a good many characterizations 
which would be useful for any writer treating upon 
Cambridge society in the third decade of this century. 
Kenelm Digby, the author of the " Broadstone of 
Honour," had left Cambridge before the time when 
Euphranor held his "dialogue," but he is picturesquely 
recollected as " a grand swarthy fellow who might have 
stepped out of the canvas of some knightly portrait in 
his father's hall — perhaps the living image of one sleep- 
ing under some cross-legged effigies in the church," In 
" Euphranor " it is easy to discover the earliest phase of 
the unconquerable attachment which Fitzgerald enter- 
tained for his college and his life-long friends, and which 
induced him in later days to make frequent visits to 
Cambridge, renewing and refreshing the old ties of cus- 


torn and friendship. In fact, his disposition was affec- 
tionate to a fault, and he betrayed his consciousness of 
weakness in that respect by referring playfully at times 
to "a certain natural lubricity" which he attributed to 
the Irish character, and professed to discover especially 
in himself. This amiability of temper endeared him to 
many friends of totally dissimilar tastes and qualities ; 
and, by enlarging his sympathies, enabled him to enjoy 
the fructifying influence of studies pursued in com- 
munion with scholars more profound than himself, but 
less gifted with the power of expression. One of the 
younger Cambridge men with whom he became intimate 
during his periodical pilgrimages to the university was 
Edward B. Cowell, a man of the highest attainment in 
Oriental learning, who resembled Fitzgerald himself in 
the possession of a warm and genial heart, and the most 
unobtrusive modesty. From Cowell he could easily 
learn that the hypothetical affinity between the names 
of Erin and Iran belonged to an obsolete stage of 
etymology ; but the attraction of a far-fetched theory 
was replaced by the charm of reading Persian poetry in 
companionship with his young friend, who was equally 
competent to enjoy and to analyse the beauties of a lit- 
erature that formed a portion of his regular studies. 
They read together the poetical remains of Khayyam — 
a choice of reading which sufficiently indicates the depth 
and range of Mr. Cowell' s knowledge. Omar Khayyam, 
although not quite forgotten, enjoyed in the history of 
Persian literature a celebrity like that of Occleve and 
Gower in our own. In the many Tazkirdt (memoirs or 
memorials) of Poets, he was mentioned and quoted with 


esteem ; but his poems, labouring as they did under the 
original sin of heresy and atheism, were seldom looked 
at, and from lack of demand on the part of readers, had 
become rarer than those of most other writers since the 
days of Firdausi. European scholars knew little of his 
works beyond his Arabic treatise on Algebra, and Mr. 
Cowell may be said to have disentombed his poems from 
oblivion. Now, thanks to the fine taste of that scholar, 
and to the transmuting genius of Fitzgerald, no Persian 
poet is so well known in the western world as Abu-'l-fat'h 
'Omar son of Ibrahim the Tentmaker of Naishapur, 
whose manhood synchronises with the Norman conquest 
of England, and who took for his poetic name (takkailus) 
the designation of his father's trade (Khayyam). The 
Rnbdiyydt (Quatrains) do not compose a single poem 
divided into a certain number of stanzas ; there is no 
continuity of plan in them, and each stanza is a distinct 
thought expressed in musical verse. There is no other 
element of unity in them than the general tendency of 
the Epicurean idea, and the arbitrary divan form by 
which they are grouped according to the alphabetical 
arrangement of the final letters ; those in which the 
rhymes end in a constituting the first division, those 
with b the second, and so on. The peculiar attitude 
towards religion and the old questions of fate, immor- 
tality, the origin and the destiny of man, which educated 
thinkers have assumed in the present age of Christen- 
dom, is found admirably foreshadowed in the fantastic 
verses of Khayyam, who was no more of a Mohammedan 
than many of our best writers are Christians. His 
philosophical and Horatian fancies — graced as they are 


by the charms of a lyrical expression equal to that of 
Horace, and a vivid brilliance of imagination to which 
the Roman poet could make no claim — exercised a 
powerful influence upon Fitzgerald's mind, and coloured 
his thoughts to such a degree that even when he over- 
steps the largest license allowed to a translator, his 
phrases reproduce the spirit and manner of his original 
with a nearer approach to perfection than would appear 
possible. It is usually supposed that there is more of 
Fitzgerald than of Khayyam in the English Rubdiyydt, 
and that the old Persian simply afforded themes for the 
Anglo-Irishman's display of poetic power ; but nothing 
could be further from the truth. The French translator, 
J. B. Nicolas, and the English one, Mr. Whinfield, 
supply a closer mechanical reflection of the sense in 
each separate stanza ; but Mr. Fitzgerald has, in some 
instances, given a version equally close and exact ; in 
others, rejointed scattered phrases from more than one 
stanza of his original, and thus accomplished a feat of 
marvellous poetical transfusion. He frequently turns 
literally into English the strange outlandish imagery 
which Mr. Whinfield thought necessary to replace by 
more intelligible banalities, and in this way the magic of 
his genius has successfully transplanted into the garden 
of English poesy exotics that bloom like native flowers. 
One of Mr. Fitzgerald's Woodbridge friends was 
Bernard Barton, the Quaker poet, with whom he main- 
tained for many years the most intimate and cordial 
intercourse, and whose daughter Lucy he married. He 
wrote the memoir of his friend's life which appeared in 
the posthumous volume of Barton's poems. The story 


of his married life was a short one. With all the over- 
flowing amiability of his nature, there were mingled cer- 
tain peculiarities or waywardnesses which were more 
suitable to the freedom of celibacy than to the staid- 
ness of matrimonial life. A separation took place by 
mutual agreement, and Fitzgerald behaved in this cir- 
cumstance with the generosity and unselfishness which 
were apparent in all his whims no less than in his 
more deliberate actions. Indeed, his entire career 
was marked by an unchanging goodness of heart and a 
genial kindliness ; and no one could complain of having 
ever endured hurt or ill-treatment at his hands. His 
pleasures were innocent and simple. Amongst the 
more delightful, he counted the short coasting trips, 
occupying no more than a day or two at a time, which 
he used to make in his own yacht from Lowestoft, 
accompanied only by a crew of two men, and such a 
friend as Cowell, with a large pasty and a few bottles 
of wine to supply their material wants. It is needless 
to say that books were also put into the cabin, and that 
the symposia of the friends were thus brightened by 
communion with the minds of the great departed. 
Fitzgerald's enjoyment of gnomic wisdom enshrined in 
words of exquisite propriety was evinced by the fre- 
quency with which he used to read Montaigne's essays 
and Madame de Sevigne's letters, and the various 
works from which he extracted and published his col- 
lection of wise saws entitled "Polonius." This taste 
was allied to a love for what was classical and correct 
in literature, by which he was also enabled to appre- 
ciate the prim and formal muse of Crabbe, in whose 
grandson's house he died. 


His second printed work was the "Polonius," already 
referred to, which appeared in 1852. It exemplifies 
his favourite reading, being a collection of extracts, 
sometimes short proverbial phrases, sometimes longer 
pieces of characterization or reflection, arranged under 
abstract headings. He occasionally quotes Dr. John- 
son, for whom he entertained sincere admiration ; but 
the ponderous and artificial fabric of Johnsonese did 
not please him like the language of Bacon, Fuller, Sir 
Thomas Browne, Coleridge, whom he cites frequently. 
A disproportionate abundance of wise words was drawn 
from Carlyle ; his original views, his forcible sense, and 
the friendship with which Fitzgerald regarded him, 
having apparently blinded the latter to the ungainly 
style and ungraceful mannerisms of the Chelsea sage. 
(It was Thackeray who first made them personally 
acquainted forty years ago ; and Fitzgerald remained 
always loyal to his first instincts of affection and admir- 
ation. 1 ) " Polonius " also marks the period of his earliest 
attention to Persian studies, as he quotes in it the 
great Sufi poet Jalal-ud-din-Rumi, whose masnavi has 
lately been translated into English by Mr. Redhouse, 

1 The close relation that subsisted between Fitzgerald and Car- 
lyle has lately been made patent by an article in the Historical 
Review upon the Squire papers, — those celebrated documents 
purporting to be contemporary records of Cromwell's time, — which 
were accepted by Carlyle as genuine, but which other scholars 
have asserted from internal evidence to be modern forgeries. 
However the question may be decided, the fact which concerns us 
here is that our poet was the negotiator between Mr. Squire and 
Carlyle, and that his correspondence with the latter upon the 
subject reveals the intimate nature of their acquaintance. 


but whom Fitzgerald can only have seen in the original. 
He, however, spells the name Jallaladin, an incorrect 
form of which he could not have been guilty at the 
time when he produced Omar Khayyam, and which 
thus betrays that he had not long been engaged with 
Irani literature. He was very fond of Montaigne's 
essays, and of Pascal's " Pensees ; " but his " Polonius " 
reveals a sort of dislike and contempt for Voltaire. 
Amongst the Germans, Jean Paul, Goethe, Alexander 
von Humboldt, and August Wilhelm von Schlegel at- 
tracted him greatly ; but he seems to have read little 
German, and probably only quoted translations. His 
favourite motto was " Plain Living and High Think- 
ing," and he expresses great reverence for all things 
manly, simple, and true. The laws and institutions of 
England were, in his eyes, of the highest value and 
sacredness ; and whatever Irish sympathies he had 
would never have, diverted his affections from the 
Union to Home Rule. This is strongly illustrated by 
some original lines of blank verse at the end of " Polo- 
nius," annexed to his quotation, under "^Esthetics," of 
the words in which Lord Palmerston eulogised Mr. 
Gladstone for having devoted his Neapolitan tour to an 
inspection of the prisons. 

Fitzgerald's next printed work was a translation of 
Six Dramas of Calderon, published in 1853, which was 
unfavourably received at the time, and consequently 
withdrawn by him from circulation. His name ap- 
peared on the title-page, — a concession to publicity 
which was so unusual with him that it must have been 
made under strong pressure from his friends. The 


book is in nervous blank verse, a mode of composition 
which he handled with great ease and skill. There is 
no waste of power in diffuseness and no employment of 
unnecessary epithets. It gives the impression of a 
work of the Shakespearean age, and reveals a kindred 
felicity, strength, and directness of language. It de- 
serves to rank with his best efforts in poetry, but its 
ill-success made him feel that the publication of his 
name was an unfavourable experiment, and he never 
again repeated it. His great modesty, however, would 
sufficiently account for this shyness. Of " Omar Khay- 
yam," even after the little book had won its way to 
general esteem, he used to say that the suggested 
addition of his name on the title would imply an 
assumption of importance which he considered that 
his "transmogrification" of the Persian poet did not 

Fitzgerald's conception of a translator's privilege is 
well set forth in the prefaces of his versions from Cal- 
deron, and the Agamemnon of /Eschylus. He main- 
tained that, in the absence of the perfect poet, who 
shall re-create in his own language the body and soul 
of his original, the best system is that of a paraphrase 
conserving the spirit of the author, — a sort of liter- 
ary metempsychosis. Calderon, ^Eschylus, and Omar 
Khayyam were all treated with equal license, so far as 
form is concerned, — the last, perhaps, the most arbi- 
trarily ; but the result is not unsatisfactory as having 
given us perfect English poems instinct with the true 
flavour of their prototypes. The Persian was probably 
somewhat more Horatian and less melancholy, the 


Greek a little less florid and mystic, the Spaniard more 
lyrical and fluent, than their metaphrast has made 
them ; but the essential spirit has not escaped in trans- 
fusion. Only a man of singular gifts could have per- 
formed the achievement, and these works attest Mr. 
Fitzgerald's right to rank amongst the finest poets of 
the century. About the same time as he printed his 
Calderon, another set of translations from the same 
dramatist was published by the late D. F. MacCairthy ; 
a scholar whose acquaintance with Castilian literature 
was much deeper than Mr. Fitzgerald's, and who also 
possessed poetical abilities of no mean order, with a 
totally different sense of the translator's duty. The 
popularity of MacCarthy's versions has been consider- 
able, and as an equivalent rendering of the original 
in sense and form his work is valuable. Spaniards 
familiar with the English language rate its merit highly ; 
but there can be little question of the very great su- 
periority of Mr. Fitzgerald's work as a contribution to 
English literature. It is indeed only from this point of 
view that we should regard all the literary labours of 
our author. They are English poetical work of fine 
quality, dashed with a pleasant outlandish flavour which 
heightens their charm : and it is as English poems, 
not as translations, that they have endeared themselves 
even more to the American English than to the mixed 
Britons of England. 

It was an occasion of no small moment to Mr. Fitz- 
gerald's fame, and to the intellectual gratification of 
many thousands of readers, when he took his little 
packet of Rubaiyydt to Mr. Ouaritch in the latter part 


of the year 1858. It was printed as a small quarto 
pamphlet, bearing the publisher's name but not the 
author's ; and although apparently a complete failure at 
first, — a failure which Mr. Fitzgerald regretted less on 
his own account than on that of his publisher, to whom 
he had generously made a present of the book, — re- 
ceived, nevertheless, a sufficient distribution by being 
quickly reduced from the price of five shillings and 
placed in the box of cheap books marked a penny each. 
Thus forced into circulation, the two hundred copies 
which had been printed were soon exhausted. Among 
the buyers were Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Mr. Swinburne, 
Captain (now Sir Richard) Burton, and Mr. William 
Simpson, the accomplished artist of the " Illustrated Lon- 
don News." The influence exercised by the first three, 
especially by Rossetti, upon a clique of young men who 
have since grown to distinction, was sufficient to attract 
observation to the singular beauties of the poem anony- 
mously translated from the Persian. Most readers had 
no possible opportunity of discovering whether it was a 
disguised original or an actual translation ; — even Cap- 
tain Burton enjoyed probably but little chance of seeing 
a manuscript of the Persian Ruba'iyyat. The Oriental 
imagery and allusions were too thickly scattered through- 
out the verses to favour the notion that they could be 
the original work of an Englishman ; yet it was shrewdly 
suspected by most of the appreciative readers that the 
"translator" was substantially the author and creator 
of the poem. In the refuge of his anonymity, Fitz- 
gerald derived an innocent gratification from the curi- 
osity that was aroused on all sides. After the first 


edition had disappeared, inquiries for the little book be- 
came frequent, and in the year 1868 he gave the MS. of 
his second edition to Mr. Ouaritch, and the Rubaiyyat 
came into circulation once more, but with several alter- 
ations and additions by which the number of stanzas 
was somewhat increased beyond the original seventy- 
five. Most of the changes were, as might have been 
expected, improvements ; but in some instances the 
author's taste or caprice was at fault, — notably in the 
Rubaiy. His fastidious desire to avoid anything that 
seemed baroque or unnatural, or appeared like plagiarism, 
may have influenced him ; but it was probably because 
he had already used the idea in his rendering of J ami's 
Salaman, that he sacrificed a fine and novel piece of 
imagery in his first stanza and replaced it by one of 
much more ordinary character. If it were from a dislike 
to pervert his original too largely, he had no need to be 
so scrupulous, since he dealt on the whole with the Ru- 
ba'ivvat as though he had the license of absolute author- 
ship, changing, transposing, and manipulating the sub- 
stance of the Persian quatrains with singular freedom. 
The vogue of "old Omar" (as he would affectionately 
call his work) went on increasing, and American readers 
took it up with eagerness. In those days, the mere 
mention of Omar Khayyam between two strangers 
meeting fortuitously acted like a sign of free-masonry 
and established frequently a bond of friendship. Some 
curious instances of this have been related. A remark- 
able feature of the Omar-cult in the United States was 
the circumstance that single individuals bought numbers 
of copies for gratuitous distribution before the book was 


reprinted in America. Its editions have been relatively 
numerous, when we consider how restricted was the 
circle of readers who could understand the peculiar 
beauties of the work. A third edition appeared in 1872, 
with some further alterations, and may be regarded as 
virtually the author's final revision, for it hardly differs 
at all from the text of the fourth edition, which ap- 
peared in 1879. This last formed the first portion of a 
volume entitled " Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam ; and 
the Salaman and Absal of Jami ; rendered into English 
verse." The Salaman (which had already been printed 
in separate form in 1856) is a poem chiefly in blank 
verse, interspersed with various metres (although it is 
all in one measure in the original ) embodying a love- 
story of mystic significance ; for Jami was, unlike Omar 
Khayyam, a true Sufi, and indeed differed in other re- 
spects, his celebrity as a pious Mussulman doctor being 
equal to his fame as a poet. He lived in the fifteenth 
century, in a period of literary brilliance and decay ; and 
the rich exuberance of his poetry, full of far-fetched con- 
ceits, involved expressions, overstrained imagery, and 
false taste, offers a strong contrast to the simpler and 
more forcible language of Khayyam. There is little 
use of Arabic in the earlier poet ; he preferred the ver- 
nacular speech to the mongrel language which was 
fashionable among the heirs of the Saracen conquer- 
ors; but Jamf's composition is largely embroidered with 

Mr. Fitzgerald had from his early days been thrown 
into contact with the Crabbe family ; the Reverend 
George Crabbe (the poet's grandson) was an intimate 


friend of his. and it was on a visit to Morton Rectory 
that Fitzgerald died. As we know that friendship has 
power to warp the judgment, we shall not probably be 
wrong in supposing that his enthusiastic admiration for 
Crabbe's poems was not the product of sound, impartial 
criticism. He attempted to reintroduce them to the 
world bv publishing a little volume of " Readings from 
Crabbe." produced in the last vear of his life, but with- 
out success. A different fate awaited his "Agamem- 
non : a tragedy taken from -Eschylus." which was first 
printed privatelv by him. and afterwards published with 
alterations in iS~6. It is a very free rendering from the 
Greek, and full of a poetical beauty which is but partly 
assignable to .Eschylus. Without attaining to anything 
like the celebrity and admiration which have followed 
Omar Khayyam, the Agamemnon has achieved much 
more than a w.vA d'esiime. Air. Fitzgerald's render- 
ings from the Greejk were not confined to this one essay ; 
he also translated the two CEdipus dramas of Sophocles. 
but left them unfinished in manuscript till Prof. Charles 
Eliot Xorton had a sight of them about seven or eight 
years ago and urged him to complete his work. When 
this was done, he had them set in type, but only a very 
few proofs cm have been struck off. as it seems that, at 
least in England, no more than one or two copies were 
sent out bv the author. In a similar way he printed 
translations of two of Calderon's plavs not included in 
the published "Six Dramas" — namely, La Vida es 
S:.: r ::, and E! ILigico Prodigioso (both ranking among 
the Spaniard's finest work : ^ but thev also were withheld 
from the public and all but half a dozen friends. 


When his old boatman died, about ten years ago, he 
abandoned his nautical exercises and gave up his yacht 
for ever. During the last few years of his life, he divided 
his time between Cambridge, Crabbe's house, and his 
own home at Little Grange, near Woodbridge, where he 
received occasional visits from friends and relatives. 
His best epitaph is found in Tennyson's " Tiresias and 
Other Poems," published immediately after our author's 
quiet exit from life, in 1883, in the seventy-fifth year of 
his age M. K. 





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